Squid Game is the series of the moment: everyone is talking about it, everyone has seen it and everyone has made an opinion that they intend to share. On the other hand we should have understood that it was going to be an explosive series: masks, pink overalls and an intriguing name; the poster is the spiritual heir of The House of Paper.
Hwang Dong-hyuk, writer and director of the series, had already thought about the series in 2008, taking inspiration from the socio-economic disparities of South Korea and its youth difficulties. The series, then released in 2021, obviously made a huge success.
Many desperate for money
Think of staying with one foot in the pit: you don't have a job, your family is struggling to support you, you don't have friends who can help you and the creditors are looking for you to scalp you. Suddenly someone appears who, playing rock-paper-scissors, bets a lot, a lot of money. You play and, after a few attempts (which you discount through kicks in the garetti, since you don't have any money) you win. The guy offers you to play something else, to play something that would bring you a lot more money. Would you participate?
Here, this is the Squid Game plot summarized and without too many spoilers. The protagonist of the series, Seong Gi-hun (played by Lee Jung-jae) finds himself participating in these games together with other co-stars, through increasingly complex challenges. From one game to the next we learn details about the other participants: how they ended up in that condition, what and how they behave in the face of challenges and their alliances.
The social criticism that everyone appreciated
Like many series, feature films or more generally works, Squid Game has a clear message of social denunciation. Very similar to what we can find in Black Mirror (many episodes share the intent) or the most recent The hole (The Hole on Netflix) Squid Game is a criticism. The poor are forced to follow every form of hope, no matter how dire, to get out of their condition while the rich watch with pleasure. The series often points this out to us, mostly through the character of Cho Sang-woo (Park Hae-soo). His character, initially a member of the disgraced elite, gradually becomes more cynical, adapting to the beast that the game wants and moving from neutral to complete antagonist.
On the other hand, however, Squid Game certainly does not shine with innovation. In the Asian panorama I had already faced the theme of the most oppressed: Liar Game, a manga 15 years ago, was already dealing with the story of the protagonists forced into poverty blackmailed into the game; a reality that appears far from the viewer but which, in different ways, is instead very, too close. And this is how the stereotypical characters presented in the 9-episode series follow, in one way or another, someone we may know, and everything becomes more real.
1, 2, 3, stay there!
Surely you can fix Squid Game, even if the result is really very good. Looking at the series in Korean with Italian subtitles, it is clear that two roles suffer greatly from the plot and the presence, although anti-climatic, of a protagonist. The first character is Ali (Anupam Tripathi), a character on which one could dig but who is presented as a secondary and left on the sidelines. The second (group of) characters are the rich; too stereotyped, too flat, too perhaps too bad to be. They could have been done better.
Conversely, the protagonist, antagonist, and two other co-stars (Sae-byeok, played by Jung He-yeon and Oh, played by Yeong-su Oh) help deepen the whole series - they have interesting stories, shown. with a brisk pace and well-written characters. The outline is all in all pleasant, the plot not too complicated to decipher (and predict, at least for me) and everything is well blended to create a pleasant and fluid series.